Today I received an email from our local group of youth ministers (who I choose not to get together with for a variety of reasons). They wanted me to know that this week at our two high schools in Livermore, the schools would be putting on the “Every 15 Minutes” program. I don’t know how many of you experienced these in your high schools growing up, but I remember when it was at my high school. I’m pretty sure I was a freshman – and while I do remember it, I don’t really remember what my reaction to it was. You can visit the Every 15 Minutes website for more information, or check out the information provided by the Livermore Police Department. Below is an excerpt describing some of what will happen over the two days.
The program has been structured to cover a two-day period in May 2008. At the beginning of the first day, a student will be escorted from his/her class Every 15 Minutes by the “grim reaper.” The student will be brought to a command post on the school campus where he/she will be made up with cosmetics to represent the living dead. The student will then be escorted to a mock cemetery where they will place their tombstone. A uniformed officer will escort the student back to class and read the student’s obituary to the entire class. To enhance the realism of the event the student will not respond to anyone the remainder of the school day. At the same time, police officers and chaplains will be making prearranged death notifications to the participant’s parents. By the end of the first day a total of 50 students will make up a core participant group called theÂ living dead.
I’m not sure what I think about this. I find some aspects of it highly problematic. I don’t feel like scare tactics are the best teaching tools. They certainly don’t seem to work with sex education in our schools – so why do we think they’d work with teen drinking?
More specifically – these tactics remind me of what some conservative/fundamentalist Christian churches do when they put on “hell houses” around Halloween. If you aren’t familiar with these – you can check out this NPR report called “Hell House.” As the NPR report states, “The aim is to save souls through fear.”
Isn’t that essentially what the Every 15 Minutes program is doing? Trying to save kids through fear? Don’t we have any better methods than fear? Do we not have more trust in our youth so that we can have an actual conversation about this topic? Must we resort to scare tactics and trying to scare them into doing the right thing?
So, my question is simple: what do you think about this?